Caterpillar Foundation: Investing in Our Planet

April 22, 2022

This year’s Earth Day theme is “Investing in our Planet,” and the Caterpillar Foundation is investing around the world – from Sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia to the U.S. – so that our ecosystems and our communities thrive as we help build resilience in the face of climate change.

Foundation partners are committed to innovation and are developing scalable and unique solutions to tackle some of Earth’s greatest challenges like vulnerability to natural disasters, extreme climate risk and ecosystem degradation. These three project examples from across the globe are emblematic of the types of forward-thinking and people-centered ideas the Foundation is proud to invest in.

Nature-Based Solutions to Support Sub-Saharan Africa’s Growing Population 

What are Natured Based Solutions?

Nature-based solutions are projects that protect, manage or restore ecosystems to support local ecological systems and communities in growing stronger, more resilient and more sustainable. These ecosystem approaches—like reforesting and sustainably managing forests, preserving wetlands and marine habitat restoration—are a cornerstone of Caterpillar Foundation’s natural infrastructure and sustainability work.

What is the Problem?

The Sub-Saharan Africa region, one of the most vulnerable to climate change, has the world’s highest wealth inequality, and needs infrastructure development to provide basic services to more than 1.2 billion people. The regional population is projected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050, putting significant pressure on already limited resources and tripling water demand by 2030.

The Response

World Resources Institute and other partners on the ground are working together to evaluate nature-based solution investment opportunities in the region. This partnership will develop a flagship landscape assessment that will help unlock billions of dollars in climate and development finance to benefit over 430 million residents, helping the region adapt to the effects of climate change and provide better access to important services like clean water and sanitation.


Photo Credit: WRI

river in African community

Cost Benefit Analysis Tool to Support Green-Gray Infrastructure

What is Green-Gray Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure such as wetlands and forests provide nature-based adaptation solutions for flood control and water security. For communities exposed to extreme climate risks, green infrastructure alone may not provide adequate protection. Conventional gray infrastructure, in the form of seawalls and dams, can provide protection but is often cost prohibitive and can create unintended negative impacts. By blending “green” conservation with “gray” engineering techniques, communities can incorporate the benefits of both solutions while minimizing the limitations of using either green or gray

What is the Problem?

Vulnerable communities around the world are increasingly exposed to climate threats, already affecting lives and infrastructure in an unprecedented manner. In Mexico and Brazil, many conventional infrastructure projects do not consider factors such as water connectivity during design, which results in projects that fragment habitats and change to sedimentation processes. This results in biodiversity loss and negative impacts to local communities who depend upon fishing, agriculture and tourism. 

The Response

With Caterpillar Foundation support, Conservation International and partners will develop a “Green-Gray Infrastructure Tool” in Mexico and the North Brazil Shelf, which spans the northern states of Amapa and Para in Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. The tool will include a detailed and fully transparent user guide describing underlying methodologies, data and assumptions. By quantifying these co-benefits in Mexico and Brazil, the tool will create the business case needed to catalyze investment into natural infrastructure solutions globally.


Photo Credit: Blue Forest Conservation

mountains, trees, lake

Innovative Financing Models to Scale Climate 

What is innovative financing?

Innovative financing refers to a range of non-traditional mechanisms to raise additional funds for development aid through innovative projects such as micro-contributions, taxes, public-private partnerships, and market-based financial transactions.

What is the Problem?

Over 43 million acres of land needs treatment to reduce the risk of wildfire. In states like Washington, Colorado and California, devastating fires destroy buildings, livelihoods and even lives. Blue Forest Conservation started the Forest Resilience Bond to bridge the gap for much-needed forest restoration by deploying previously untapped private capital to finance natural infrastructure projects on public land. This project has the potential to connect the millions of acres in need of restoration work with the funding to make it happen.

The Response

In the Sierra and Yuba Counties in California, the Forest Resilience Bond will impact 81,000 residents, creating more than 200 jobs in the local community and will provide hydroelectric power, drinking water and flood control for over 30,000 people.

The Caterpillar Foundation believes in the economic and social value of conserving, protecting and rebuilding our natural infrastructure, which is why they are funding the kind of big ideas needed to invest in our earth. Thus far in 2022, the Foundation has more than 35 active sustainable infrastructure programs, committing over $1.8 million dollars to adapt our earth. Together with their partners, these programs will remove, sequester or capture over 75,000 short tons of carbon and restore over 500,000 thousand acres by the end of the program.